Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : February 3rd 2017 Contents A28 body & soul
guardian.co.tt Friday, February 3, 2017
Most of the time, when you order fast food,
you know exactly what you're getting: an inex-
pensive meal that tastes great but is probably
loaded with fat, cholesterol and sodium.
But it turns out that the packaging your food comes
in could also have a negative impact on your health,
according to a report published Wednesday in the
journal Environmental Science & Technology Letters.
The report found fluorinated chemicals in one-
third of the fast food packaging researchers tested.
These chemicals are favoured for their grease-re-
Along with their use in the fast food industry,
fluorinated chemicals---sometimes called PFASs---are
used "to give water-repellant, stain-resistant, and
non-stick properties to consumer products such as
furniture, carpets, outdoor gear, clothing, cosmet-
ics (and) cookware," according to a news release that
accompanied the report.
"The most studied of these substances (PFOSs and
PFOAs) has been linked to kidney and testicular can-
cer, elevated cholesterol, decreased fertility, thyroid
problems and changes in hormone functioning, as
well as adverse developmental effects and decreased
immune response in children."
These are long-chain PFASs that have largely been
phased out, in favour of shorter-chain compounds
that are thought to have shorter half-lives in the hu-
man body, but these shortened forms have not yet
been thoroughly studied.
As these chemicals are used in many everyday prod-
ucts, consumers are exposed to them frequently, and
the same health effects may not be true for all of them.
Previous studies have shown that PFASs can migrate
from food packaging into the food you eat, said Lau-
rel Schaider, a research scientist at the Silent Spring
Institute and one of the authors of the paper.
"These studies have found that the extent of mi-
gration depends on the temperature of the food, the
type of food and how long the food is in contact with
the paper," Schaider said. "And it depends on which
specific chemical" is in the packaging.
What constitutes a bad (w)rap?
Scientists at the five institutions that collaborated
on the report collected more than 400 samples of fast
food packaging from 27 leading US chains.
The types of packaging were split into six categories:
food contact paper (sandwich wrappers and pastry
bags), food contact paperboard (boxes for fries or
pizza), non-contact paper (outer bags), paper cups,
other beverage containers (milk and juice containers)
and miscellaneous (lids).
Food contact papers were divided into three sub-
categories: sandwiches, burgers and fried foods; Tex-
Mex; and desserts and breads.
Food contact paper fared the worst, with 46 per
cent of all samples testing positive for fluorine. Food
contact paperboard was next, at 20 per cent, followed
by other beverage containers at 16 per cent. Non-con-
tact paper, paper cups and miscellaneous all tested
negative for fluorine.
The researchers did not provide any chain-spe-
cific data in order to compare fast food restaurants
or determine which brands scored better or worse
"For foodservice packaging that requires a barrier
coating, 'short chain' fluorochemicals are used today,
so it's no surprise that the study would find these
chemicals," said Lynn M Dyer, president of the Food-
service Packaging Institute in the US. "These, like all
packaging products, go through rigorous testing to
ensure that they meet stringent US Food and Drug
Administration regulations, providing the safe de-
livery of foods and beverages to consumers."
Dryer added, however, that "some fluorochem-
ical-free products have been introduced since this
study was conducted in 2014 and 2015," meaning there
are now a greater numbers of options available for
fast food chains to provide oil, grease and/or water
The packaging your food comes in could also have a negative impact on your
What's a consumer to do?
Short of asking that your next burger be served in
between two lids, there isn't a whole lot you can do
to avoid PFAS exposure once you've chosen to eat at
a fast food restaurant.
"Unfortunately, for consumers, there's no easy way
to tell---just by looking at packaging---whether or not it
contains fluorinated chemicals," Schaider said. (CNN)
Report finds chemicals in
one-third of fast food packaging
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